EncroChat: Recovered messages ‘show organised crime bosses fear’ elite National Crime Agency, police say

Organised crime bosses are scared of a “sophisticated and relentless” elite police squad, recovered messages have shown.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has found messages including “be scared of NCA” and “the police are winning this year”, among millions of exchanges from a recently hacked communications system.

Unearthed messages show criminals were afraid of them even before EncroChat was intercepted, the agency, which targets serious and organised crime in the UK, said.

EncroChat, an encrypted phone network widely used by criminal networks. Pic: Europol

Other messages included: “That’s naughty when the big boys like NCA and flying squad come its not good they won’t stop”, “NCA as you know well are sophisticated and relentless” and “thanks bro the police scoring goals motherf******”.

One criminal also claimed: “I’m moving my family from UK this year because NCA is getting too smart,” while another said the NCA is not “f***ing about”.

In one, an offender says: “Yeh its NCA wanna worry about,” and another warns “If ye got that NCA on ye m8/ ye got problems for sure and heavy bird m8.”

Detectives worked with colleagues in France and the Netherlands, who decoded EncroChat, an encrypted platform where users could speak privately between specially-designed handsets, in April.

The data harvested from servers based in France was shared via Europol.

There were thought to be 60,000 EncroChat users internationally, including 10,000 in the UK, with prices at £1,500 for a six-month contract.

Acting on the data obtained, police made more than 746 arrests across the UK last week.

They seized more than £54 million in criminal cash, two tonnes of drugs, 77 firearms including assault rifles, sub machine guns and grenades, and 55 high value cars.

Officers say 200 threats to life have been averted.

NCA deputy director of investigations, Matt Horne – who was also gold commander for the operation, warned criminals “this is just the start”.

He said: “Operation Venetic has targeted middle-ranking and top tier criminals, including offenders who’ve previously been untouchable.

“The messages are a reflection of UK law enforcement’s standing in their eyes – and they were before they realised their communication system had been infiltrated. Who knows what they think now?

“But they should know this is the just the start of Operation Venetic and the last thing we’ll be is complacent. We are not going to take our foot off the gas.

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